Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Is This As Good As It Gets?

Last week was a really good week. I went to Drinking Liberally and had a good time. There were several attractive progressive women there, fellow bloggers like the great Alt Hippo were there, and we all got to hear and be inspired by the efforts of local communities and grassroot-oriented activists to change the labor practices of WalMart--America's largest and grinchiest employer.

Today I don't know. If you saw my movie you might recall the opening scene where I'm watching a campaign video my team has produced lauding my support for welfare reform and family values, policy stances I embraced in order to get re-elected, all the while I'm sitting amidst the clutter of my office which also includes pictures of me with famous civil rights leaders from the sixties, with the unspoken but implicit thought being, What The Hell Happened?

I feel a little like that today. Not that I've sold out or anything. Just not sure whether my little spot on the Internets is worth anything. For instance, I turn to Alt Hippo today and see where he, perhaps in a mood similar to mine, takes a stab at rebutting the charge that "liberals hate America". Now, this charge has angered me a great deal. And the Hippo's attempt to deal with this nonsense is admirable. But I can't bring myself to try to answer this charge because to do so would mean that I accord it with some legitimacy and that in doing so I am implying that the charge and the subject is something that is worth my time. If I have to stoop to responding to charges like this from the blogistan, and to have to continue to return to it month after month, blog after blog, then "the terrorists have won."

Then I turned to James Wolcott's blog. It appears that the blogistan thinks there's finally a movie out now that affirms their reactionism and that won't make Michael Medved cry. Wolcott includes comments from the NRO:

Cinderella Man, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ron Howard, is a thrilling piece of work. No, more than thrilling. I left the screening room this afternoon exhilarated, moved, excited, stirred and overwhelmed, convinced that Cinderella Man is one of the best movies ever made.


Braddock is no ball of fire. He's not motivated by a passion for boxing, like Maggie in last fall's hit, Million Dollar Baby. He doesn't even have the horsy competitiveness of Seabiscuit, subject of Hollywood's last inspirational-underdog-of-the-Depression venture. If Braddock is an underdog, he wears it well: He's doglike in his loyalty, gentleness, and nobility of spirit. When life gives him a kick in the pants, he accepts it uncomplainingly; when it tosses him a bone, he's sincerely grateful.


Cinderella Man is not really a movie about boxing, it's a movie about what it means to be a man. In the character of Jim Braddock, we can read what today's audiences are wistful for: a man who works hard to support his wife and kids, who teaches his kids to be honest, who communicates his delight in his wife with every glance.

This sort of commentary is so stupifying I don't even know where to begin. Fortunately Wolcott sums it up about as best as anyone could:

It isn't audiences that are wistful, but politically motivated critics who want to turn back the clock to that character-building time before the New Deal wove a safety net so that men didn't have to bash each other senseless to keep their families decently clothed and fed.

But is this what's it's all come to? I feel like we're going 'round and 'round in circles. Liberals hate America. Don't'cha just wish that America was like it was during its "goldenage"? Blah blah blah.

Like my friend Jack Nicholson asked in his movie, As Good As It Gets, "What if this is as good as it gets?" Is this as good as it gets? Is there meaning to life? Can the progressive community reach beyond the numbnuts to help advance the causes of justice, knowledge, and individual freedom? Or are we just doomed to an endless cycle of stuff like this:

...inside the gym, the crowd was clearly adoring. "Family values is what it's all about," said Joel Victory, 62, a stockbroker from Cleburne to the south. He had no problem with the setting, he said. "Look at your coins," he said. "Our currency is built on 'In God We Trust.' "

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